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Clayton State soccer sweeps Peach Belt crowns

From Staff Reports

Two 1-0 victories at Laker Field put an exclamation point on "Showdown Saturday" and made for an historic day in Clayton State Soccer.

Both the men's and women's and soccer teams captured the 2005 Peach Belt Conference Championship crowns with wins over conference opponent USC Upstate, the first time in Peach Belt history that the same school has won both the men's and women's soccer championships in the same year.

The Laker women's victory gave Clayton State a share of the PBC title with Columbus State, who also won on Saturday, while the men's victory over USC Upstate gave the Lakers the title outright over the Spartans. The Peach Belt title for the women's team is the first in program history, and the championship for the men is the second with the first title coming in 2001.

With the win, Clayton State's men's squad will host the 2005 Peach Belt Conference semifinals and finals next weekend, as the conference's top seed. Clayton State improves to 11-3-4 on the year and 5-0-1 in the league. The Lakers will receive a first round in the tournament, returning to the field on Saturday for the semifinals. USC Upstate drops to 11-2-2 overall and 3-1-2 in the league with the loss. The Spartans will return to action on Wednesday, hosting a match in the first round of the PBC Tournament.

Clayton State's women's team improves to 12-2-2 and 6-1-1 on the year and will return to action on Tuesday, hosting a first round Peach Belt match, as the second seed from the conference. Columbus State will enter the tourney as the top seed, since the Cougars won the regular match between the two schools. Upstate falls to 4-12-1 overall and 2-6 in the league. The Spartans will return to action on Tuesday, traveling for a first round Peach Belt Tournament match.

After a scoreless first half in the women's match, Clayton State broke the deadlock early in the second period with a goal by Nkese Udoh, her 15th of the year in the 50th minute. The score came off a pass from Olaitan Yusuf that crossed through the box, setting up Udoh for a shot in the lower right of the net.

Clayton State held on for the remainder of the match to pull out the victory. The Lakers controlled much of the match, outshooting Upstate 14-3 and led3-0 in corner kicks. Clayton State keeper Judith Chime recorded her ninth shutout of the season, with three saves for the Lakers, while Upstate's Diana Wabnitz had five saves.

In the men's match, 13th-ranked Clayton State scored in the 33rd minute and held off a number of scoring threats by fifth-ranked USC Upstate to pull out the victory.

Clayton State's Kevin Crooks scored the game winner, taking a pass from Scott LerClerc. Crooks beat Spartan keeper Ryan Cooper with a shot in the bottom right of the net from 13 yards out.

The match was not without controversy in the final 30 seconds, as Upstate's Liam Slack appeared to score the game-tying goal with a shot in the lower left of the net from inside the Clayton State box, but he was whistled for offsides, securing the victory for Clayton State.

USC Upstate out-shot Clayton State 11-3 in the match only to be denied by Clayton State keeper Heath Padgett and the Laker defense on several occassions. The Spartans' Troy Simon had the best chance to score in the first half only to have Padgett come up with a diving save, and in the second half, Chris Baretta had a shot from point blank range after some confusion in the Laker box, but once again, Padgett came up with a big stop.

Padgett finished with five saves for the Lakers and recorded his fifth solo shutout, while Ryan Cooper had one save for the Spartans. Upstate finished with six corner kicks compared to only one for the Lakers.